BROOMFIELD – A lawsuit challenging the integrity of the troubled Broomfield election that narrowly passed a five-year ban on fracking will be heard Monday by District Court Judge Chris Melonakis.
Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition (BBEC) and Tom Cave of It’s Our Broomfield Too filed the lawsuit citing numerous election errors – including the discovery of about 80 ballots and materials last month stashed in Broomfield Election Manager Michael Susek’s office.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to annul the recount election abstract of votes cast and invalidate the election results on Question 300, which passed by 17 votes triggering a recount. The fracking ban passed by 20 votes after the recount – a margin still narrower than the number of uncounted ballots cast by eligible voters.
“A combination of the following three factors conspired to make the Broomfield election the poster child as the worst run election in Colorado history,” said BBEC spokeswoman B.J. Nikkel in a statement to The Colorado Observer.
The factors include “a bad election bill,” House Bill 1313 signed into law last year that is difficult for municipalities to understand; the “extremely deceptive ballot measure,” Question 300; and “incompetent election officials in Broomfield who refused to incorporate transparency and who admitted a myriad of mistakes” including the mystery ballot box that was discovered four months after the November election.
Broomfield City and County Attorney Bill Tuthill admitted mistakes were made, but he insisted the election results were certified and could not be changed.
“The canvass board completed its work and certified the results of the recount on Dec. 5,” said Tuthill in a statement.
The recount certification was signed by two of the three Broomfield Election Canvass Board members – Broomfield County and City Clerk Jim Candelarie and Joan Stern-Murahata, a leader in the Our Broomfield campaign to pass the fracking ban. Canvass Board member Marty Robinson refused to sign the recount certification.
All three Canvass Board members had signed the original election count certification, but they were only provided a statement attesting to accuracy and not with the required supporting documentation.
“You can’t do that and have any confidence in the election,” said Cave, adding that “there is no city attorney, nobody protecting the public.”
If the court upholds the election, Cave said, Question 300 would lead to expensive litigation because it violates constitutionally protected private property rights.
“That could bankrupt the city of Broomfield,” Cave said.
If Cave and BBEC win their lawsuit, it is unknown whether annulling the election recount would result in a new election. State statutes don’t clearly empower the judge to make that decision.
Broomfield lost a lawsuit last month in which it tried to block access to election records and materials that was requested by Marilyn Marks of the non-profit group Citizen Center to ensure election integrity. Marks had filed the request under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA).
Tuthill argued that releasing that information would “do substantial injury to the public interest.”
In that Jan. 21 ruling, District Court Judge Francis Wasserman disagreed and ordered Broomfield election officials to comply with the requirements of the open records law. Marks said Candelarie electronically transmitted the records and materials within a week.